The United States Government has confirmed it has joined a civil lawsuit against Lance Armstrong to claim around US$100 million from the disgraced cyclist.
The US Department of Justice took the opportunity to join a whistle-blowing lawsuit filed by Armstrong’s former team-mate, Floyd Landis, who alleges the Texan defrauded the US Government when it sponsored the United States Postal Service team.
The lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act and provides for the recovery of three times the damages, plus penalties, and also includes the possibility of the whistle-blower sharing in any funds recovered.
The USPS sponsorship was from 1999 to 2004, with US dollars 31m paid between 2001 and 2004 alone, the Department of Justice said.
A statement read: “The Department of Justice announced today that the government has joined a civil lawsuit alleging that Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports LLC and Tailwind Sports Corporation (Tailwind) submitted or caused the submission of false claims to the US Postal Service (USPS) in connection with its sponsorship of a professional bicycle racing team by regularly employing banned substances and methods to enhance their performance, in violation of the USPS sponsorship agreements.
“From 1996 through 2004, the USPS sponsored a professional cycling team owned by Tailwind and its predecessors.
“Lance Armstrong was the lead rider on the team, and between 1999 and 2004, he won six consecutive Tour de France titles as a member of the USPS-sponsored team.
“Johan Bruyneel was the directeur sportif, or manager, of the cycling team.”
After years of denials, Armstrong last month admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in each of his seven Tour de France wins.
In a television interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong confessed after bowing to the weight of evidence compiled by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
Talks between Armstrong, his representatives and the Department of Justice broke down ahead of the Government joining the lawsuit.
In a statement Robert Luskin, counsel to Armstrong, said: “Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly, but those talks failed because we disagree about whether the Postal Service was damaged.
“The Postal’s Services own studies show that the Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship – benefits totalling more than US dollars 100 million.”
The formal complaint will be filed within 60 days.
Ronald C. Machen Jr, US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said: “Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than US Dollars 30 million from the US Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules – including the rules against doping.
“The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as ‘the most sophisticated, professionalised, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen’.
“This lawsuit is designed to help the Postal Service recoup the tens of millions of dollars it paid out to the Tailwind cycling team based on years of broken promises.
“In today’s economic climate, the US Postal Service is simply not in a position to allow Lance Armstrong or any of the other defendants to walk away with the tens of millions of dollars they illegitimately procured.”
Earlier this week, Armstrong refused USADA’s request to an interview under oath, despite insisting he is prepared to help to clean up cycling.
His lawyer, Tim Herman, stated Armstrong “will not participate in USADA’s efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonise selected individuals”.